Staff Survey Incentives

Staff Survey Incentives

In customer satisfaction research, it’s often the case that respondents are given incentives for taking part. When you’re asked to fill out a “quick customer survey” after making a purchase online you are likely to be given the chance to claim money off your next purchase or enter a draw to win a iPad or some other glitzy gadget. Why ? Because it works. Offering incentives for these types of survey has a positive effect on response rates. Without offering these incentives, it’s very difficult to get a decent level of response in a customer survey.

For an employee / staff survey, things are a little different.

I’ve worked with clients where the HR team are dead-set on offering staff an incentive to complete the survey. These normally fall into one of 3 types;

  • Throw-away Incentive: The organisation gives a small gift to everyone that completes the survey
  • Prize Draw: The organisation picks one lucky employee at random to win a more substantial prize
  • Charity: The organisation makes a charity donation for every completed survey

I would certainly NOT advise following either #1 or #2 here. Both are likely to generate problems for you. For one, you have to handle the conflict of interest between conducting an anonymous staff survey and knowing who is eligible for the free gift / entry into the prize draw. There are ways of doing this, but it still makes employees more wary of the confidentiality of their responses.

Secondly, in the “throw-away” example, whilst the gift itself must be cheap enough to meet the organisation’s all-staff budget it also needs to be of sufficient quality to be welcomed by the staff – otherwise it’s not fulfilling its role. This is a tricky balance.

The big Prize Draw route results in a single employee winning something valuable. Even though we’re talking about grown-ups, this can still create a sense of envy and bitterness towards that individual. It’s almost more trouble than it’s worth.

In my view, the charity route is the only one of these that really works. Making a charity donation works because none of the individual employees get anything as a direct result of their participation in the survey. They do however feel that they are exchanging their time/goodwill in completing the survey for something worthwhile and worthy (the financial gift to the organisation’s chosen charity).

However, I still wouldn’t run a staff survey with any sort of incentive at all. Ever.

The reason is that I believe employees should want to take part in the staff survey for the right reason – ie. that they trust their organisation to use the survey feedback to makes changes for the better in the workplace. That things will improve, morale will get a boost and people will feel more engaged and involved with their employer. If they don’t feel this way, then giving them the chance to win a shiny new iPad / iPhone is just tantamount to bribery. You are buying their involvement in the staff survey. They don’t care about their responses (because they don’t feel anything will happen as a result), therefore they will not consider their answers at all. They’ll complete the survey as quickly as possible. You’ll have poor quality data. And you will have bribed your staff to get it. The survey will be relatively worthless. The staff get no value, you get no value and everyone loses (well apart from the individual with the shiny new iPad).